The thing about living is light. It surrounds us, breathes through us – not in us but through us. The force of it is subtle as the New Mexico breeze I hardly notice under the hot summer desert sun then suddenly become acutely grateful for when under the shade of a hundred-year-old cottonwood tree.

 Light informs my psychotherapeutic work with patients who’ve suffered from complex childhood trauma, a terrible pain stemming from years of chronic abuse. There are horrid memories deposited in mind and body. Stepping out the door of my home each morning to go to my office, early before the sun rises over the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, I anticipate, hope for the light. Yes, there is hope because there is no guarantee that light, insight, will come and help the suffering to see and be a little freer.

Light, the way my patients and I experience it while sitting doing depth psychotherapy in my wood-paneled consultation office, is a subtle movement of energy. They sometimes comment, “The light in here has shifted. Have you noticed? It’s different, not brighter but clearer.” I often smile silently, acknowledging the reality of what I realize as numinous.

In depth psychology, soul-work therapy, numinous refers to spiritual awakening, an energetic force that awakens consciousness. It happens when we have a “big dream,” one that shakes us to the core and leaves a lingering sensation of mystery. Numinous and luminous are partners in life healing and transformation. It’s subtle, a shift we hardly notice, at times absolutely see, but always feel in our muscles, ligaments, and bones. Light, insight into self and others, awakens psychic truth and a sensation that the very luminosity of the room we are in and the world in which we live has shifted, transformed, for the better.

I call the numinous/luminous encounter spectacular because there is an instant, a millisecond even, when my breath stops, heart quickens, and my mind expands. Patients experience it, tears, sighs, and relief palpable. Spectacular light comes in moments of heart-to-heart conversation, a kindling of human understanding. It is subtle, meaningful, and spectacular.

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